MILWAUKEE — Imagine being in limbo to defend your state title and your college future, only to find out you might have lost a shot at both.
A Rufus King swimmer is staying positive while dealing with this double blow. And trying to qualify for the Olympics.
"Hello. My name is Ziyad Saleem, and I'm the WIAA State Champion, in the 100 yard backstroke," Ziyad Saleem says.
When we last saw Ziyad, he was honored in the mayor's office. How things have changed.
"Cool experience to meet the mayor. It was really fun to have all that media presence and stuff there," Saleem says.
With MPS winter sports on pause, he might not get a shot to repeat as state champ.
"It's really sad," Saleem says. "Something I definitely was hoping to come back and defend. But luckily we've been able to keep swimming. And I've still been progressing."
The second gut punch: he had a scholarship to swim at the University of Iowa but they dropped their program during the pandemic due to funding issues.
"It's definitely heartbreaking and shocking. But yeah, I've looked at it as a positive," Saleem says.
Many would say, 'why me?' But not Saleem.
"I think just a positive outlook," Saleem says. "Just understanding that, if something happens right now, it's not the end of the world. A lot of the suburban schools are able to compete in their sports, and MPS is really left out. Which is something I hate to see, because it's not just me who's getting affected by this. It's a lot of my friends at school, the basketball team, who are really trying to get like their last-second scholarships, to make it into college."
So as of now, he's training at the Schroeder Aquatic Center nearly every day, for a shot to represent Sudan at the 2021 Olympics.
".07 off the FINA B cut, to qualify for the Olympic Games in 2021," Saleem says. "And I'm .29 off in the 200 Back. Hopefully, before the Olympics comes by, I'll have those two cuts and be able to represent Sudan in the Olympic Games."
In the meantime, Saleem will continue to train at the Schroeder Aquatic Center, and compete in regional and national level meets.